This Tuesday marks a key moment in franchise history for the Ottawa Senators, as Chris Phillips’ #4 will be lifted to the rafters, joining Frank Finnigan (#8) and Daniel Alfredsson (#11). It will be celebration of the team’s longest-serving player, who was around for the highest highs and some of its lowest points.
This week’s question isn’t a matter of whether or not Phillips’ jersey should be retired — Brandon laid out why it’s unquestionably deserved here. Instead, we’re looking towards the future.
Now that Chris Phillips is being honoured, which Sens player will be the next to have their jersey number retired?
Let’s lay out the options.
Option 1: Chris Neil
Currently partnered with Phillips as the team’s official Alumni Ambassadors, Chris Neil was around for the same era as Phillips, sticking with the team through its greatest moments and then some. For someone who defined toughness in the NHL in the 2000s, he somehow avoided any and all suspensions, acting as a useful bottom-six contributor all the while delivering punishing checks. He’s heavily involved in the Ottawa community and has long been a fan-favourite, even past his retirement in 2017. But does the fact that he was never one of the team’s top players hold him back from jersey retirement?
Option 2: Jason Spezza
He’s still in the NHL, and playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs at that. But Jason Spezza’s best years were all spent with the Senators as one of the league’s premiere first-line centres, scoring 687 points in 686 games, good for 2nd in franchise history. His sour exit may be a looming factor when honouring his legacy, but the Sens didn’t exactly part with Alfredsson on a good note either.
He’s the anti-Chris Neil in that he stuck around for a shorter time (although eleven seasons is still a lot), but was a much more prolific player league-wide, drowning opposing teams with Alfredsson and Dany Heatley on his wing. Is it enough to merit retiring #19?
Option 3: Erik Karlsson
Maybe the greatest player in franchise history, Erik Karlsson not only led the Sens for nearly a decade, but he revolutionized the defence position in the NHL with his smooth-skating, offence-heavy style. He’s tied as the franchise’s second-longest serving captain, and while the Sens were never near the top of the league like they were in the era of Alfredsson, Spezza and the like, his playoff performance in 2017 dragging the Sens to the Eastern Conference finals is the stuff of legends.
We all experienced the heartbreak that followed, though, and now he’s killing it with the San Jose Sharks on an eight-year contract. Given he was traded before age 30, by the time he retires he may very well have played the majority of his games in a Sharks jersey. Balancing all these factors, could Karlsson one day be inducted into Sens lore in the same way as Phillips?
Option 4: Someone Else
You could interpret this category in a few ways. Maybe there’s an underdog that you think has enough credibility for the honour (Craig Anderson anybody?), or maybe you think none of the aforementioned players will have their jerseys retired. It could potentially come down to the next generation of players, whether that be Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk, or someone who has even yet to even be drafted into the Senators organization. It could be anyone’s guess.
It’s also worth noting that the Ring of Honour is a thing that exists, and while Bryan Murray is currently the only person inducted, it could serve as an alternate route for the organization to honour players who may not exactly be a shoe-in for jersey retirement.
Vote in the poll below; following Chris Phillips, who will be the next Senator with their jersey retired? Let us know your choice in the comments.
Which Sens player will be the next to have their jersey retired?